STUDY Hebrews 11:11-16
(click here for notes)
By faith Abraham, even though he was past age-and Sarah herself was barren-was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.
All these people were still living by faith when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance. And they admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own. If they had been thinking of the country they had left, they would have had opportunity to return. Instead, they were longing for a better country-a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them. (NIV)
The story of God's promise of a son to Abraham and Sarah and of its fulfillment is in Genesis 15:1-6; 17:15-22; 18:1-15; 21:1-8. When God specifically addressed the promise of Abraham's having an heir, He had already told him that He would make him into a great nation.
1. What fact identified the fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham as a miracle? (see Genesis 15:2-3; 17:17-19; 18:10-14)
2. Adam, Noah, and Abraham were each commissioned to be the fathers of a lineage that would fill the earth. How was Abraham's lineage to be different from that of Adam and Noah? (see Genesis 6:3, 6-7, 13; 7:1; 11:1-9; Romans 4:13, 16-21; Galatians 4:23, 28-30)
3. After God's promise to Abraham of his having a son, several years elapsed. How did Sarah's and Abraham's lack of faith create a situation with eternal consequences? (see Genesis 16:1-15)
4. After Isaac was born, why were Hagar and Ishmael sent away from Abraham's camp, and why didn't God let Hagar leave when she first tried to run away? (see Genesis 16: 7-9; 21: 8-20; Galatians 4:21-31)
Keeping the Covenant
God initiated his covenant with Abraham, promising him the land of Canaan, when he put Abraham to sleep and, in the form of a smoking pot and burning furnace, passed among the covenant sacrifices without Abraham participating. (Gen. 15:17-20) God also reiterated his promise to give Abraham a son. (Gen. 15:4-5) After this covenant commitment, Abraham and Sarah still collaborated to produce Ishmael.
Thirteen years after Ishmael's birth, one year before Isaac's birth, God confirmed and established his covenant with Abraham and established the circumcision requirement.
5. What two covenant agreements did God make with Abraham, and what was the difference between them? (Genesis 15:9-21; 17)
6. Why do you think God required circumcision of Abraham after the birth of Ishmael but before the birth of Isaac? (see Genesis 17:1-14; Romans 4:9-12)
7. What was the point of circumcision? (see v. 11; Ex. 12:48; Deuteronomy 10:15; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4)
8. What was the purpose of covenant signs? (see Genesis 9:12-17; Genesis 17:11; Exodus 31:16-17; Matthew 26:26-29)
9. What other covenants did God make with people? (see Genesis 9:12-13; Exodus 19-24; Numbers 25:10-13; 2 Samuel 7; Jeremiah 31:31-34)
10. Who "kept" the circumcision covenant and the Mosaic covenant with Israel?
11. Who "kept" the covenants with Noah, Phineas, David, and the church?
12. How were the circumcision covenant God made with Abraham and the Mosaic covenant God made with Israel different from the others?
Living by Faith
"All these people were still living by faith when they died," says Hebrews 11:13. "They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance."
13. What did these people in chapter 11 not receive but continued by faith to believe would come? (see v. 39; Matthew 13:17; John 8:56; 1 Peter 1:10-12)
14. Why did these people of faith believe themselves to be aliens? (see Genesis 23:4; Leviticus 25:23; Philippians 3:20; 1 Peter 1:17; 2:11)
15. What did they consider to be their true home? (see 2 Timothy 4:18)
16. What is the city for which these people waited by faith? (see Hebrews 13:14; 12:22-23; Galatians 4:26; Rev. 21:99-14)
17. For what are you praying and living by faith that God will take care of the situation?
18. What miracles have you received by faith?
19. In what ways or situations do you feel like an alien in your life?
20. How have God's promises and the new covenant affected your life?
21. What grief or heartache are you suffering because of faithless decisions you've made?
22. What is God asking you to entrust to him so you can live fully by faith instead of by sight and/or manipulation?
23. What worry or fear keeps your attention and prevents you from living in the freedom of faith and trust?
24. Bring your worry or your preoccupation to Jesus. Tell him you don't know how to solve it, and ask him for wisdom and for a knowledge of truth in the situation. Ask him to put his Spirit in you in place of your fear and worry and regret, and ask him to heal your wounds and to show you how to live by faith. Ask him to show you how to give up what stands between you and faith, and ask him to redeem the situation with his love.
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Studio, Redlands, CA USA. All rights reserved. Revised July 1, 2001.